Yip Harburg

Lawrence Bush
April 7, 2018

Yip Harburg (Isidore Hochberg), the lyricist who wrote the anthem of the Great Depression, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” and all the songs of The Wizard of Oz,  including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (voted the #1 song of the 20th century in two different professional polls), was born on this date in 1896. He collaborated with Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and numerous other talented composers in the course of writing lyrics for over 600 songs. Harburg also created a number of Broadway musicals with socially conscious themes, including Bloomer Girl (about women’s rights) and Finian’s Rainbow (“When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich”). Harburg was blacklisted and barred from Hollywood for his leftwing sympathies from 1951 to 1962.

“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” —Yip Harburg

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.